One day when Jonathan Gamble was 14, he walked into the youth room at Iron City Baptist Church in Anniston and asked Lance and Terra DeMerchant a question.
“He came in with his guitar in his hand and said, ‘Can I play something for y’all and get some feedback?’ That was when we realized he could sing,” Terra DeMerchant said.
The DeMerchants had recently started leading worship at the church, and they’d found great help in the middle schooler.
“He started coming with us to lead worship for the children and playing the drums and then the keys,” Terra DeMerchant explained.
And then came the day when Gamble decided to ask them what they thought about a song he’d written.
Lance DeMerchant said he was in shock as he listened. “I told him I thought he needed to be leading and writing.”
Beginning of a journey
That moment began a journey for Gamble that led him to where he is now — a staff writer for Nashville-based Capitol Christian Music Group Publishing, the Christian music publishing division of Universal Music Group.
After that day in the youth room, the DeMerchants held a songwriting class at the church, and Gamble was front and center.
“Lance and Terra took me under their wing and taught me the basics of songwriting,” Gamble said. “We would look at Top 10 worship songs and Top 10 pop songs and talk about the songs and how they were structured. I started to think about songs that way. We did that for years through high school.”
Gamble loved it. When he went on to Jacksonville State University, he kept his music going. He served at Leatherwood Baptist Church in Anniston, and he started leading worship at Engage, the college ministry of First Baptist Church Jacksonville. He also continued to write and produce music and put it up on SoundCloud.
“I made some friends on SoundCloud, and we developed a small community of Christian writers and producers and wrote some music together,” Gamble said.
Building a career
Over time as he collaborated with others in the community, he developed more and more connections. Eventually, one of those connections was Jon Sell, who at the time was an artists and repertoire representative for Capitol CMG Publishing. Sell had been the one to “discover” artist Lauren Daigle.
“I sent three or four songs to Jon, and he liked them,” Gamble explained.
Sell invited Gamble to a meeting at his office.
“Looking back, it wasn’t that serious of a meeting, but I remember lint rolling my jeans before I got out of the car. I wanted to impress him,” Gamble said.
Capitol didn’t offer him a publishing deal that day, but he got his foot in the door, and he began sending more songs to Sell for feedback. Sell also introduced him to some producers in the area and continued sharing more ways to hone his craft.
The road was slow, but it seemed to be going somewhere — and that was something Gamble had never expected.
“My wife, Sierra, and I had planned on moving to Atlanta because I had just graduated from JSU with a degree in marketing,” he said. “Sierra had been making trips on the weekend to volunteer at Zoo Atlanta to make connections there, and we had been looking in the area of town where we wanted to live.”
But when the two of them realized his songwriting dream might materialize into a career, they decided to scrap their plans and move to Nashville. In 2019, they moved into a small apartment, and Gamble began working part time for a mobile phone company and using his off time to write songs.
He began to meet and collaborate with more artists, and the songs he sent to publishing companies were met with more and more positive feedback.
In December 2021, Gamble signed with Capitol.
Gamble recently worked with Danny Gokey on a song called “Live Up to Your Name.” He was also invited on the road with Tauren Wells and wrote three songs with him, including “When We Get There.”
Songs from the valley
Gamble said he’s still amazed he’s here — he remembers having a conversation with his youth pastor Brad McVay years ago about his music. He knew he’d love to be a staff writer for a church one day, but he didn’t know whether that was possible.
“It’s not at a church, but my job now is called that,” he said. “I didn’t even know that was a real job.”
McVay — who now serves as pastor of Beulah Baptist Church in Muscadine — shared he remembers seeing so much talent and growth over the years as Gamble was finding his feet in music.
“He was incredibly gifted even then and had a heart for leading worship,” McVay said.
While the DeMerchants helped Gamble grow in his songwriting abilities, McVay challenged him to be intentional with what songs he chose for youth worship and why he chose them.
When McVay moved to serve at Leatherwood Baptist, he brought Gamble with him. While there, McVay walked with Gamble through a tough season of life, and he said he watched how it grew Gamble’s faith and deepened Gamble’s music.
“We just sort of sat in this valley together, and as he started coming out of it, that’s when his songwriting developed and shifted,” McVay said. “On the other side of it, he owned his faith and started writing from this authentic faith.”
One song that came out of that season is called “What He Didn’t Do,” which Gamble’s friend Landry Cantrell recorded.
Gamble said it captured something he had wrestled with at that time.
“Something I had been wanting to say in a song is ‘Yes, God is good to make a way and move mountains and do miracles, but also God is still good when He doesn’t do it,’” Gamble explained. “It’s still for our good.”
The song is “really special to me,” he said.
To listen to “What He Didn’t Do,” visit youtu.be/cOy6Wx5bc7I.